Ascot in Its Adolescence: Early History of Famous Racing Health in Southern England, Daily Racing Form, 1919-01-14


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ASCOT IN ITS ADOLESCENCE Early History of Famous Racing Heath in Southern England. Two Hundred Years Ago Kings and Nobles Raced and Gambled There. Two hundred years ago the tlien minster of the TTorse. the Duke of Somerset, received the royal oiiniiMiiil to make a "Hound Heat on Ascott Common"; that In the July and August of that year lie paid ,795 to one William Lowell for work done; S75 to a certain canenter for divers posts and rails; 3 to the painter who decorated the said posts, and to the scrivener who engrossed "The articles for Her Majestys Plate run for at Ascott Common." Having provided a. course, the next tiling undertaken by James II.s daughter was the provision of a race meeting, which was accomplished through the agency of the London Gazette of July 12, 1711, in which journal the following announcement appeared: "Her Majestys Plate of 500 will be run for round the new heat on Ascott Common, near Windsor, on Tuesday. August 7 next, by any horse, mare or gelding being no more than six years, old the grass before, as must be certified under the hand of the breeder, carrying HIS pounds, three heats, to be entered the last day of July, at Mr. Hancocks, at Fern Hill, near the Starting Post." A plate of 250 was also arranged for, and the first meeting, after a lwstponement of four days, vas duly brought off on Saturday, August 11, and the following Monday, the queen .lRing present on both days, but, unfortunately, not the author of "Gullivers Travels." who, on August 13, wrote toj5t.eIla: "I missed the race today by coming" too late," when everybodys "coach was"gone;-and ride I would not." In the course of the following September and on A.lgust 25, 1712, and August 12, 1713, the Queen again lent her august presence to race meetings at Ascot: but when about a fortnight before the races of 1714 the royal patroness- died, racing at Ascot was indefinitely postponed, and as George I. was not crealy addicted to the "sport of kings," the fortunes of the course were at a low ebb for a number of years., though at divers dates in the twenties of the eighteenth century races were held there between horses "used in bunting twelve months last past," and "for such hunters as had been at the death of the leasli of staggs witli His Majestys hounds in Windsor Forest between Marcli 1 last and the first day of running." KINGS AND NOBILITY AT .ASCOT. George II.. like his predecessor, -was far from being wedded to the race course, but to make up for his indifference his third son, the warrior, uion whom certain of his contemporaries bestowed the not exactly euphonious appellation of "Butcher" Cumberland, was a most enthusiastic devotee of racing. As ranger of Windsor Forest, the Conqueror of Culloden was in a position to encourage sport at Ascot, and by 1754. in which year, when lie lind a walk-over for a 5 plate, he refused to take advantage of the absence of opposition and ordered that the prize should be competed for by "horses that had not had a sweat," he had secured four lays racing for the royal meeting. Fourteen years later the meeting, which was enlivened by a lady of fashion undertaking for a wager of 5,000 to ride a hundred miles on horseback in ten hours while her husband offered to wager 5,000 more that she would eat a leg of mutton anil drink two bottles of claret in addition 1 lie racing was spread over five days; but as late as 1773, four years after Eclipse had won the Noblemen and Gentlemens Plate of 50, and three1 years after a cup was subscribed, and walked-over for by the Duke of Cumberlands Maria, that was the parent of the Gold Cup, the arrangements of Ascot were most primitive, no permanent grandstand gracing the course, while the races did not start before 5 p. in., cock-fighting, prize-fighting and broad-sword combats filling in the time. Tuesday, June 28, 1791, is a date marking an epoch in the history of Ascot, inasmuch as it was on that day that the race for the Oakland Stakes was decided and- serious racing inaugurated on the royal course. Forty-one subscribers contributed from 5 to 00 toward this stake, which resulted in the stupendous sum, for those days, of 4,900 being allocated as the- premier prize. Nineteen horses started on the two-mile contest, and after a close race young Chifney on the Prince of Wales Baronet, a 20 to 1 chance, won. It is asserted in 2:33, a time that taxes our credulity. It is alleged that over a million pounds sterling changed hands over this race, that 40,000 people were present, and that the king, wiien congratulating his son, who had won 5,000, remarked: "Your Baronets are more productive than mine. I made fourteen last week, but I got nothing by them. Your single Baronet Is worth all mine put together." By 1793, at which date two hundred canvas booths were dotted about the precincts of the course, the owners paying fees of from 15 to 5 for permission to erect the same and from 30 to 200 for the privilege to run a gaming table within, the racing was arranged to begin at 1 oclock. In 1791, three years after, a liorse that had thrown its jockey over its head opposite the royal inelosure, was found to have broken both its forelegs and to have run twenty yards on the stumps, the first of Ascots grandstands was erected to hold 1,050 persons. This stand was in use until 1838, when it was discarded in Tavor of an erection built by a company having a capital of 50,000 divided into 100 shares. DIVIDENDS FROM THE ASCOT STANDS. The money to build tills stand is said to have lieen somewhat difficult to raise, but it proved , an excellent investment, esiecially to those who on the tontine system remained on until the last shares were redeemed at par, as can be gathered from the fact that in addition to their capital, which they received back, something like 50,500 was distributed among the shareholders in the course of niueteen vears, and in the last year the final dividend received by the lucky holders of the shares remaining amounted to 75 for each share lield. , . , Among the many monarchs who visited Ascot in its- early days, including in 1814 the Emperor of ; Russia and the King of Prussia, and in 1844 Nicholas I.. Czar of ltussia, who for several years presented a piece of plate worth ,500, discontinued at the time of the Crimean war, was William IV., win, in 1832, was assaulted by an old man in sailor costume, who hurled several stones at his king, i one of them striking the royal hat. The delay In ; ; i ; bringing the ancient mariner to justice, owing to tile fact that no magistrate was present in an official capacity, lias since that date furnished the Chief Stipendary Magistrate in London with a pleasing holiday, inasmuch as it is his duty to attend the races on each day to deal summarily with all evildoers who are brought before him in the little police court at the back of the royal stand. As "business" is not brisk, the change from Bow street to Ascot must be greatly appreciated by the dispenser of Justice, whose chief clients are old acquaintances who have been caught in the act of picking pockets. Bailys Magazine.

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